Juno Dawson - The Gender Games book signing writeup
Last Thursday we sat down with Juno Dawson to chair her book launch event at Waterstones Leeds. We asked some questions and got a pretty incredible response back. Here's what we found out:
In the book itself, you talk about Gender not being female or male, but relate Gender as ‘He’ why is this?
Gender in the book is this like Voldemort bogeyman who slithered onto the maternity ward, this is how you have to think and be, man up, don’t cry. Woman gender was going to be like get this waxed, shave your legs, don’t eat that croissant.
That voice is the voice of patriarchy, the voice of a male. She only existed in the book for a day and a half, so many of the messages I’m receiving as a woman now are to benefit the status quo of the white straights cisgender men. All the way through gender is going to be a he.
What was the hardest topic to write about in the writing process of the book?
I was at the Glamour awards last week with the makeup artist/Guardian writer Sally Hughes and columnist Caitlin Moran. We were all talking about writing memoirs/private lives. Agreed really there should be some sort of training/crash course in what will happen when you open up in any great depth especially as a woman (private life).
Hardest parts weren’t writing the book, was more revealing private elements. Some things that haven’t been shared, certain family haven’t consented to be in the book. Writing about friends/boyfriends - offered them all a get out, change name/shield identity. My parents on no level did they ask for this, they didn’t ask for a trans child. How could I not talk about my mum and dad? They were responsible for my earliest lessons about gender. Didn’t see any benefit of throwing parents under the bus for gendering me.
What has the reception been like for the book since release so far?
My mum has made the decision is just not going to read it, for legal reasons read the bits with her in as she had to sign her life away, thanks mum. She’d probably be here tonight but she’s in Mallorca, that’s a shame isn’t it. My dad's really cool, he was been phenomenal throughout, been a real surprise and that was the twist n the third act I did not see coming. My transition has brought me and my dad much closer together. I don’t know if my sister will read it, she might be annoyed she’s not in it more, completely erased from history.
My friends are really good are making fun at me. Get you friends who will completely rip the piss out of you because it’s so important. My life over the last 10 years has been ridiculous since book deals. Had amazing opportunities to meet nice people and incredibly lucky person take it for granted. That’s why you need friends to remind you to keep your feet on the ground.
In terms of broader reception, so far so good. Have concerns having written for young adults, broadsheets and critics look down on adult fiction and teen fiction. I worried that they would say the gender games reads like teen fiction, but I don’t think they would intend it as a compliment. On the flip side, it’s so much better than her teen fiction, felt a bit like a catch 22. Nobody has really picked up on that, sounds like me and it has a voice. The first book for adults, so far so good!
What were the key messages you aimed to convey to the readers within the content of this book?
Didn’t want to do a trans memoir, also feel that trans people have value beyond their brave journey trademark, and the readers at glamour have been so supportive. Letters I get are wonderful but are entered around my brave journey. What I’m interested in is everyone's relationship with gender whether you are cisgender, gender, male, female, non-binary etc. Wanted to write a book about that relationship with gender.
It’s more important that the reader comes away from it addressing their gender and what their lifelong relationship with gender is like. Whoever you are and however you identify, we are living in a gendered world. More intrigued and inspired to actually start a conversation and get everybody talking. Feel we are in the midst of a gender revolution, which is in lots of ways exciting.
In today’s society, social media plays a big part in everyone having their own opinion. Do you think there has been any controversy surrounding the book?
Erm, it's difficult, isn’t it? Because it’s strange, as soon as you turn off social media, all that controversy goes away. It would’ve been different publishing this book in the comfort of the 90’s.
The problem with social media is that it’s a nuance void. and it’s very easy to scream into the wind (applies mainly to Twitter) thousands crying out to be heard on all ideological sides. We only follow who broadly agree with is, there is the danger there that slightly skewed sense of the world. It’s a dangerous thing, I have fallen foul of it a few times. Bugs me when I walk into something unwittingly. You know that a book instructing on how to do gay sex (This book is gay), is going to ruffle a few feathers. More frustrating when you step on a landmine happened 4 times in the last few years. The more your twitter followers increase the more landmines, yeah it hurts and it’s horrible.
There was one recently I did for a magazine, the full article confused sexuality and gender when I was a teenager. They pulled a horrible headline, people telling me to kill myself. I’ve had anxiety issues and that’s f**ked up, even if you are screaming it into the wind. This is the worst, or I could just close the laptop. Went out and walked the dog and not one person came up to me and said kill myself, throw the trash emoji at me hahaha. I have some properly good friends through Twitter though. We all say stupid shit, can’t guarantee I won’t say more stupid shit. The difference between someone being willfully hateful etc.
For anyone reading your book or even just having the discussion in their head trying to get an understanding of who they are/questioning themselves, what advice would you give?
It’s tricky, I think I’m very aware from this book is gay days that it’s really, I don’t know if anybody sets out to be a role model, as it’s a very heavy burden. The thing with this book is gay, I hoped young people would read it otherwise what is the point. I always love it when my readers reach out. A lot of people have wrote and asked how do I come out to my parents. The problem is there is no one way to be trans, gay, lesbian, pansexual, asexual.
It’s impossible for me to give advice, how would I deal with a child being put on the street if I say do it this way or do it that way. I’m not washing my hands of the issue but try to support people in the direction they need.
Patience is the best piece of advice I wish I’d been given, both as a teenager identifying and as an adult. I’ve had years to get around my identity (28 years). One very generic piece of advise is that change doesn’t come overnight, nor can you expect people to adjust to life changing news overnight. Time is a nifty little healer, and it does tend to take time.
Do you envisage writing another book at any point?
I’m not sure what else there is to say on my brave journey trademark, as a trans person you are never finished. You don’t finish a transition, there’s not an end point in mind. Never say never, I’m in a position where I’ve just signed a new book deal for my novels, as far as I know there will only be one book out next year, a novel called Clean. In 2019 there will be another novel, past that who can say. When the gender games comes out in paperback at some point next year, I might do some exclusive new material.
Thank you to Juno Dawson for inviting us to chair the event, what a great night it was!
You can buy the book here: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Gender-Games-problem-women-someone/dp/1473648580